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Why Toyota Should Bring Back the RAV4 V6 Engine

Toyota has rolled solely with a 4-cylinder option on its RAV4 models, including the 2019 RAV4, for many years. We look at why bringing back a V6 engine to the RAV4 family is a good idea.

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The country’s best-selling vehicle in both sedan and SUV classes may surprise you. It also may not surprise you. The 2019 RAV4 has been outselling virtually every other brand, class and model for well over a year now.

Everything is headed upward, including in popularity and sales, for the wildly successful 2019 RAV4. However, one of the features from days and RAV4 generations past that is missed by many is the V6 engine. Maybe it is time to bring it back.

Why bring back the RAV4 V6?

During Toyota RAV4’s third generation run from 2005-2012, one of the options buyers could choose was a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produced 269 horsepower. Remember that “V6” chrome emblem displayed proudly along the front grille? Also, remember that spare tire on the back? The good old days.

Although it did not get the best gas mileage, the V6 RAV4 was one of the quickest vehicles in Toyota’s fleet. Drivers loved the RAV4 V6 for it’s zippiness and power. It was fun to drive.

2012 Toyota RAV4 V6 engine barcelona red front end

However, Toyota discontinued this V6 engine option with the introduction of the fourth generation RAV4, beginning with the 2013 model year. It was not a complete surprise, as I would guess that sales for V6 might have totaled only 10% of overall RAV4 sales. Some were disappointed but RAV4 sales only continued to rise, even with the V6 loss.

Now here we stand, in 2019. Sales for 2019 Toyota RAV4 have never been better. One reason is the incredible RAV4 Hybrid lineup, complete with excellent 40 mpg, great 219 horsepower and a good value.

I do think it makes sense to bring back a V6 engine alternative at some point, due to improved driving performance and overall fun factor. But with the overwhelming popularity of gas-saving options like the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid, where does this leave the possibility of a V6 engine return? Plus, if it ever did come back, how would it be utilized in the RAV4?

Options for a RAV4 V6 model

I am imagining a few different scenarios for a brand new V6 option. First, Toyota RAV4 could re-introduce its 3.5-liter V6 engine and offer it as an alternative option compared to its 4-cylinder on a few different trim levels. Perhaps XLE Premium level and above would be a good strategy.

Another choice would be to combine a RAV4 V6 engine with electric motors and launch a higher-powered Hybrid alternative. This would be similar to Toyota's Highlander Hybrid. Currently the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid uses a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine/electric motor combination to produce 219 horsepower, which is quicker and speedier than its gasoline equivalent (203 horsepower).

See why 2019 Toyota RAV4 is so popular these days in my video review. Click here to subscribe to Torque News YouTube channel for the latest Toyota news and automotive analysis.

With Toyota committed to manufacturing and delivering up to 50% of its entire lineup with Hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles within the next decade, the addition of a V6 may just not ever happen. Could be a pipe dream. And would V6 sales be strong this time around or remain low as in 2012?

What do you think about a V6 RAV4?

Would you consider a Toyota RAV4 with a V6 engine? How much horsepower would you like to see in a RAV4? Is it necessary? Do you think you would prefer a RAV4 Hybrid or a RAV4 gasoline model?

Thanks for reading everyone and thanks for your thoughts and comments. See you next story when I show you the New 2020 Tacoma SX Package.

Bookmark Jeff Teague's Toyota News and Reviews at Torque News Toyota. Please subscribe to Jeff’s “Toyotajeff” YouTube channel for Toyota news, reviews and how-to videos. Follow Jeff on Facebook and Instagram. Twitter him @toyotajeff1 and tweet him tips for new stories.

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chesscanoe (not verified)    October 5, 2019 - 10:09PM

I bought a base trim 2008 RAV4 with the V6 option and it has been a good option for me. I live in a hilly area of NH and most of my mileage is going up or down hills. I like another currently unavailable option, where only in low gear the RAV4 optionally will pulse brake to slow it to about 5mph. This is perfect for getting down my steep driveway when covered in an ice/snow condition. I might buy a new RAV4 again if these two options were available but I do not expect that to happen.

Ann mezzacapo (not verified)    February 24, 2021 - 9:33AM

In reply to by chesscanoe (not verified)

We have the RAV 4 it's a nice car but it has no zip.. You can hear the drag on the transmission when it shifts gears. The car is too heavy for 4 cylinder.. Hard to get on the LIE in NY or any where you need fast acceleration.

I also have a 2008 Ford Fusion 6 cylinder; you can't compare the two cars... I only use the RAV 4 for local driving.

I really hope that Toyota makes a 6 cylinder for the RAV 4 soon.. I'll definitely buy it.

Jesse (not verified)    October 5, 2019 - 11:46PM

As a kid, I remember the only emission device on our 1964 Chevrolet Biscayne was a PCV valve in the valve cover. As emission and safety regulations increased, automakers had to design vehicles that complied with those regulations. Or to put it another way, the government was in the car design business. This isn't an anti-government rant, it is fact based on a 55 year observation from 1964 to present day.

As far as a RAV4 with a V-6, it ain't gonna's all about gas mileage. That is why we see so many turbo engines these days. Yep, 4-cylinder engines for improved mpg and the added turbo for increased power. And don't get me started on the stop-start feature on some vehicles these days. And those folks that buy total electric cars....well they don't pay into the gas tax they are assessed an additional tax on the tag renewal to make up for that revenue loss. Let no good deed go unpunished.

Mark Day (not verified)    October 6, 2019 - 2:35PM

In my estimation the 2006-2012 RAV4 V6 4WD, remains the ultimate compact SUV in fun-to-drive, features, value, and reliability. Rather than just admiring, I
purchased two 2012s – which, currently, I have no desire to replace. Even the
tire/wheel size is perfect for this vehicle: P225/65R17. From the 2013 model
year forward, the RAV4s have not impressed me at all but have not had the same effect on the non-enthusiast American auto buying public – which mostly is
enamored with transportation appliances. If I were to fulfill a wish, a contemporary
vehicle acquisition would be a 2019 BMW X3 M40i. Addendum: If Toyota can
successfully sell lackluster transportation appliances, aka RAV4s, why bother with V6 engines or anything for enthusiasts? Excellence is being replaced by Toyota's disingenuous marketing – sizzle without the steak.

Patrick D (not verified)    October 6, 2019 - 8:36PM

V6 Water pump replacement is 1200 dollars as they almost have to remove the engine. Putting a v6 In a bay designed for a 4 banger, has consequences.

Fred G (not verified)    January 11, 2021 - 1:03PM

In reply to by Patrick D (not verified)

A new water pump and gasket can be bought for less than $50. Anyone with basic mechanical skills can change it themselves without having to remove the engine. Toyota likes to tell everyone there’s major labor involved just to rip you off at the stealership. Same goes for alternator replacement. Toyota will quote you ~$1,000 for replacing a $150 part because you supposedly have to pull the motor. Not true. I’ve done both on my RAV4 V6 just following YouTube instructions and neither was very difficult.

michael borne (not verified)    September 4, 2023 - 3:22PM

In reply to by Fred G (not verified)

THanks, that's good to know as we just got a used 2012 Rav4 V6. I do all my engine work and maintenance so that's nice to hear for when or if it becomes necessary. Is the 3.5L v6 in these 12 rav4's the same engine as they put in any of their Lexus?

Digitaldoc (not verified)    October 6, 2019 - 10:31PM

Would love to see Toyota bring the V-6 back to the RAV4, and would plan to purchase one. Unfortunately, Toyota has no V-6 to put into it as the 3.5L one from the Camry should fit, but has too much power, and would kill the 4Runner. A turbo would be a better engine, like a 2.0L one, but then the RAV4 would cut into the Lexus NX300 sales, and also Toyota does not use any turbos in the US unless it has a Lexus badge on it other than the Supra. In the end, Toyota painted themselves into a corner, and their only solution is to offer a RAV4 as a hybrid with more power as a performance variant, rather than maximizing it for fuel economy. Hence, while I would prefer to be wrong on this one, but in all likelihood the current engine offerings are as good as it gets- and hence why I don't own a RAV4.

Daniel Rudge (not verified)    February 9, 2020 - 3:17AM

I still own a V6 Rav4 in SX6 spec. Its just done 132000km and its still like new. I pull trailers and boat with it. Go camping. Mrs drops kids at school. Its a do everything suv. Massive luggage space. We also have a new Xtrail TI with 18000km but the Xtrail isnt as good and will be traded first. The RAV will stay for a very long time. Unless Toyota sell another with the 2GR engine.

B Smith (not verified)    February 16, 2020 - 11:13PM

Question for the article's author:When you state that " as I would guess that sales for V6 might have totaled only 10% of overall RAV4 sales".How are you coming up with that figure?I have been looking all over for the 2006-12 figures of 4 vs v6 but have not managed to find any.I am currently in the market for a 2012 RAV4 limited 4WD V6 and have been noticing the flood of used models with the 4Cyl vs the V6 with the V6 being a lot more scarce but would never have guessed the the larger engine only accounted for 10% of sales.Would have guessed higher like maybe 25%.Thanks

Bill Cardwell (not verified)    March 13, 2020 - 4:25AM

We bought a 2019 Camry due to the rave 4 cyl we wanted a tow vehicle for our camper instead we bought another passenger car the Camry we are hoping they will bring back the 6

S W Blog (not verified)    July 30, 2020 - 7:24PM

I need to replace my 2008 RAV4 and considering there are no more V6 engine options, what would you recommend ?

Melanie (not verified)    August 5, 2020 - 7:07PM

Keep pushing for the V6 4 Wheel drive! In my travels I have driven many of the new 4 cyc RAVs and they just don't compare--they seem to try so hard. I keep holding on to my V6 hoping Toyota will bring back the v6...Toyota has stated Federal Regulations require each automaker to not exceed a MPG quota based on their fleet. Since Toyota has the Tunda, 4-runner, etc., the RAV 4's V6 was dropped. I don't want a Hylander...toooo big

Scott (not verified)    September 6, 2020 - 3:46PM

I'd love to replace my 2011 RAV4 Limited 6 cylinder with a new RAV4. But with no 6 cylinders on the horizon, I'll keep this one. After 9 years driving with the get-up-and-go my 6 gives me, new RAV4s drive gutless. No power to get out into traffic when entering from an on-ramp. Just disappointing performance after something great doesn't sell me on a new RAV4. It appears that no manufacturer offers a small SUV in a 6. I looked at the small Lincoln SUV and it's equally disappointing.

Randy (not verified)    December 6, 2020 - 12:13PM

I was on a business trip in 2010 and rented a 4 cyl Rav 4. Was NOT impressed. It felt like a SUV Corolla. Then by chance I test drove a 6 cyl Rav 4. Night and day. I bought it the same day. Still have it, and love it. 10 years and 110,000 miles. It's time to get a replacement, but I won't even consider another Rav 4 unless Toyota offers a 6 cyl again.

Ned Pharris (not verified)    December 18, 2020 - 9:11AM

I had driven a girlfriends 2008? 4 cylinder extensively. It impressed me with its size handling (for what it was), and even its performance (again, for what it was). I would not have bought the 4 cyl though. Come 2012, wife and baby, and a move to snow and ice country we looked at Subaru, but their 4cyl engines are anemic at best, the 3.6 outback very expensive. The margin on the rav4 v6 was much less. 9 years and 91,000 miles, and it has been the perfect family of 3 car. It does get bad gas mileage (worse than my 400hp sedan on the highway), but mechanically is very sound. Fun to drive for what it is. Adequate power to keep up with the horsepower wars of the last 8 years, and few design flaws. Very little I would change on this car. It has excellent traction and stability control (tested skiing and doing donuts in icy/snowy parking lots) Like all Toyota’s, the steering column is designed to take off America sized kneecaps, and the second row arm rest top surface also serves as the back of the luggage area (fixed in 2013 with a pocket). My sister has a 2018 or so. It’s a nice car, emphasis on car, less trucky than our rav4. The four cylinder wail gives the sound of performance to the unknowing and It has many refinements. Still, this will be our last RAV4...there is no way to replace the power. These are cheap used. A great bargain and a bit of a sleeper in the car based suv world.

martin (not verified)    March 13, 2021 - 11:17AM

Bought a RAV4 V6 Limited premium brand new in 2008. I am very satisfied with the power and quietness of the V6. it now has 210K km and 13 years. intend to keep it again for another 3-4 years. I would definitely buy another one with the V6.

Vee (not verified)    March 27, 2021 - 6:56PM

I have a 2007 V6 with 167,000 miles. I LOVE MY VEHICLE!!! But I am feeling the need to start shopping for my next one so I am not desperate when the time comes. Can someone tell me whether the hybrids compare in power to the V6? I can afford a newer hybrid, but I am really tempted to buy a 2012 V6 that has only 60,000 miles. I would have to fly about 500 miles to get it.

Mark Glisky (not verified)    September 10, 2021 - 1:04PM

Perhaps some people like to tow things.
The RAV 4 V6 can pull a 3500 LB trailer, 0 to 60 in less than 15 seconds (actual consumer reports test data). The late model RAV4s towing capacity is 1500 lb why even bother towing at all?

Mike Hunt (not verified)    January 5, 2022 - 3:56PM

In reply to by Scott Nichols (not verified)

Sure. Anything is possible with enough money and/or fabrication skills.

The short answer is no. Two totally different chassis. It is not a swap and bolt-in affair.

D.England (not verified)    March 16, 2022 - 10:10PM

I have a 2008 RAV4 with a V6 engine. It's been the best vehicle I've ever owned. It now has 335,000 miles. It needs new shocks and the transmission may not be in the best of shapes but after Toyota repainted it due to the peeling paint it's still an awesome looking vehicle. I had a 2003 RAV4 with the four cylinder, and it pales in comparison to the V6. The closest thing Toyota has for a RAV4 I might get is the prime, which pairs a 4-cylinder with the electric motors.

Kathy Benton (not verified)    July 14, 2022 - 4:05PM

I loved my 2007 v6 RAV 4 and would do anything to get it back. It was recently totaled in an accident. It had the right pickup and I loved the way the back opened sideways. What are the chances of finding something like this again

Jason K. (not verified)    August 4, 2022 - 5:24PM

I bought a 2010 v6, my wife won't touch the 2019 CRV anymore and says it's a rocketship. I will probably buy a second one.